Merkel ‘will work with’ winner of French vote

Germany will form a reliable working relationship with the next French president, whoever that may be after the May 6 run-off election, a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday.

Merkel 'will work with' winner of French vote

“Whoever it will be, the federal government and the chancellor will work well and reliably with him. That is the nature of the particular French and German partnership and friendship,” Steffen Seibert told reporters.

The centre-right Merkel has publicly backed the conservative candidate and incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy, and has become embroiled in a war of words with his Socialist rival Francois Hollande over the European Union’s fiscal pact.

Late Thursday, Hollande reiterated his demand that the pact – which seeks to strengthen European fiscal rules amid the crisis – should be renegotiated to include measures aimed at boosting growth in the debt-mired eurozone.

“It’s not Germany that’s going to decide for all of Europe,” Hollande told a prime-time French television interview. 

He was replying to comments from Merkel, who told the WAZ regional news group that the pact was “not renegotiable.”

Seibert reiterated Berlin’s position, saying that the pact had already been signed by 25 EU leaders and denied that Merkel was becoming involved in the French election campaign or was hitting out at Hollande.

“Whoever becomes president, they are both pro-European. That is already a good thing,” said Seibert.

“Growth has been for a very long time the second pillar of Germany’s crisis-fighting strategy,” said Seibert, noting that EU leaders had debated ways to boost the economy at their last two summits and would do so at their next gathering.

“Germany will, as it has done for several months, very actively look for growth-boosting measures with its partners,” said Seibert.  

A debate has broken out in Europe about the best way to fight the ongoing debt crisis, often portrayed as a battle between austerity-fixated Germany and others who want to throw off the hairshirt and focus on growth.

The president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, this week called for a “growth compact”.

But Seibert reiterated that the best way to push the economy forward was by enacting far-reaching reforms to the eurozone economy.

“Germany has in the past few months pushed for growth-boosting measures to be discussed at European level,” he said. 

“As for the suggestion of Mr Draghi, I can only repeat … that he is correct and closely in agreement with our position, that growth should be fostered through structural reform.

“That is the type of sustainable growth that provides benefits for people in the long-term,” concluded the spokesman.

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Germany to tighten Covid controls at French border

Germany on Sunday, February 28th, classed France's Covid-battered Moselle region as a high risk area for virus variants, triggering tougher entry requirements at the border between the two neighbours.

Germany to tighten Covid controls at French border
Image: Peter H/ Pixabay

France’s eastern Moselle region is now listed as an area “at particularly high risk of infection due to widespread occurrence of SARS-CoV-2 virus variants”, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for disease control announced.

From Tuesday, March 2nd, cross-border travellers from Moselle will need to be able to show a recent negative coronavirus test.

Germany has already introduced tough checks at its borders with the Czech Republic and Austria’s Tyrol region, ignoring calls from Brussels to keep borders within the bloc open.

At those crossings, only Germans and non-German residents are allowed to enter, as well as cross-border commuters working in certain categories of jobs.

Every vehicle is stopped and occupants must produce a negative test that is less than 48 hours old.

The checks on the German side of the Moselle crossing are expected to be less strict, a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP.

Instead of systematic checks, police would randomly stop vehicles on the German side and ask drivers to show “a negative test and their online entry registration”, he said.

Germany has grown increasingly concerned in recent weeks about the rapid spread of new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus, especially those first detected in Britain and South Africa.

The coronavirus, including the more dangerous South African variant, is spreading faster in Moselle than elsewhere in France but French officials have pleaded with Berlin to avoid a full closure of the border.

The German classification “normally implies the extremely strict measure of a quasi-closure of borders”, France’s European Affairs minister Clement Beaune said Sunday.

“We don’t want that,” he said, adding that talks were ongoing with Berlin to find solutions for the roughly 16,000 commuters who cross from Moselle into Germany’s Saarland and Rhineland-Palatine states every day.

The German interior ministry spokesman said the two countries would discuss details of the border implications on Monday.

Asked why the French checks would not be as stringent as those along the Czech and Austrian frontiers, the spokesman said Saarland and Rhineland-Palatine had not requested border closures.

“And there is a good cooperation between the affected German and French regions,” he added.